To all those to whom Japanese film seems an impenetrable conglomeration of samurai sword fighting, ritual suicide, and feudalistic codes of behavior, Professor Mellen (English, Temple) offers this massive and detailed study. Drawing on interviews with most of Japan's leading directors, as well as considerable familiarity with Japanese history and culture, she seeks to elucidate such (to Westerners) stumbling blocks as the preoccupation with the past and the emphasis on violent action over psychology by placing the Japanese film in its historical, social, and political context. As its title indicates, this is as much a book about Japan as about Japanese film, and readers looking for intricate analyses of individual directors' camera techniques will be disappointed. Often missing too is acknowledgement that film is an industry as well as an art: she sees the recent Japanese disaster film Tidal Wave as an expression of ""the sense of crisis and panic in Japanese culture."" The author makes no attempt to dissemble her leftist and feminist leanings, and the chapter on ""Japan's Revolutionary Documentarists"" comes close to degenerating into rhetoric. But this is a valuable study on the basis of its many plot analyses alone (""I haven't seen the movie but I've read the book""?) and offers the background necessary to understand them.